The Best Acyrlic Paints

best acrylic paint

Acrylic paints are to an artist as numbers are to a mathematician. Basic and essential. But unlike numbers these chemicals  will be on your skin and the fumes you breathe. You will want to err on the safe side and not harm yourself.

Although no company will use an excessive amount of toxic lead in their paints nowadays, it's still a good idea to be informed about the tools we use. In this article I'll cover some essentials you need to know and in the end I'll also make a few recommendations.

First, you need to know there are typically only student and professional grade acrylic paints.

Student grade paints are often less expensive no matter the brand. They tend to dry faster. The store brands you find at larger superstores are typically the low end of student grade paints which means they dry almost immediately and will stain. Some student grade paints use different pigments or fillers and as such, might actually stain your brushes (or your clothes) even though acrylic paints are water soluble.

On the market there are things like Gesso, which you can use to prime your canvas; mediums, which you can use to thicken your thinner student paints; and additives that slow down how quickly your paints dry. Using a combination of these can help turn student paints into better quality. Of course, you have to consider the cost of time and money to do all that mixing versus just buying professional grade.

acrylic paints and brushes

Professional grade paints are more expensive, but for someone who is an experienced painter they are well worth the investment. These dry slower, are a thicker quality, will wash out of everything, and give you the opportunity to complete a painting before going back and making adjustments.

Secondly, all acrylic paints are by definition water soluble.

You do not need turpentine to clean your brushes like you do with oil paints. Water alone will clean them. Without these toxins you can breathe fresh air while you paint.

However, you might still want to avoid shutting yourself inside with no windows or doors for fear of diminishing oxygen.

Last, but not least

If you are using paints that have dried on your palette, a fun trick for any brand is to just spray a bit of water over the paint and mix. Acrylics can be left to dry, then mixed with water to bring them back to life. This is because of the hydrogen that evaporates from the paint.

Best Acrylic Paint Brands:

Liquitex

liquitex

Acrylic being water based means that you should be able to rinse out the paints with regular water from your sink, without any stains or residue.

The liquitex brand offers different lines of paint. Their “basics” is more of a student grade paint which does not wash out of brushes sans stains as well, but the colors are generic, bright, and ideal for most layered techniques.

If you want to make changes, or blend, without the colors drying quickly, you will need to layer your canvas with gesso or add a medium to the paints. To thicken them, add thickener. When using these, you will notice a distinct difference in texture; compared to other acrylic paints the “basics” line is watered down and comes out very thin. They have thicker paints, better quality, and a higher range of more distinct colors but with those advancements comes a higher cost.

Dick Blick

Similar to Liquitix, the art store chain Dick Blick sells their own generic version of paints “Blicks” which has a “basics” set and a more advanced professional line. If you are trying to paint something which requires limited blending and lots of layers, then these fast drying “basics” are ideal.

You can get a nice scene on your canvas with detail upon detail, but no smudge. You will be challenged to do wet on wet techniques or any blending with these. As such, you might save money on the cost of the paints, but you will spend money on an acrylic medium to keep them from drying as quickly.

Louvre

louvre acrylic

These colors come out thicker than Liquitex but thinner than Amsterdam. They are sold in smaller sizes, approximately 120 ml as the small size, compared to 133 ml as the small size for Blick paints.

Aside from size, they are about the same cost. Painting with them is easy, and some brighter colors might leave behind a slight stain on your palette or brushes.

Meant for beginners, they are among some of the top student grade paints out there, not meant for small kids in an art class per say but for an amateur painter trying to learn many techniques.

Amsterdam

amsterdam acrylic

These are more professional grade paints. They have a multitude of colors and they will not dry quickly.

As such, wet on wet techniques are easier with these paints. Cost wise they run a bit high, but are worth the quality.

You will find that with these paints, unlike cheaper off brand student paints, the pigments in the paints do not stain your brushes after washing.

Wrapping it up

Overall, deciding which quality paint to buy is really based on what type of painting you want to do. If you want to paint detailed flowers, you might not want things to stay wet but you might want smaller amounts of a wider array of colors. If, instead, you are painting a landscape, you might want colors to remain thick and wet so you can blend for a few hours. The choice is yours.

There is no right or wrong brand, right or wrong grade. You are only limited by your imagination. You will have to play around with the different brands to find which ones work best. In fact, you might discover that one particular shade of “sand color” offered by Louvre paints is not available in any other brand, so you always buy that one particular tube to add to a set of Blicks Basics. These are some of the fun tricks and tips you pick up as you learn how to paint.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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